Virtual Marathon, An Experience of Conscience


Awesome Houston Marathon swag.

Marathons are hard. They are all hard, for the fast and the slow alike. Some people don\’t know so I\’ll tell you: a marathon is 26.2 miles. In the time of COVID, many races got canceled and many popular races offered a virtual race. A virtual race means that you run the distance by yourself, on your own course, and report the results. Then, the race organizers send you the swag: a medal, shirt, and bib. 

In 2018, as the gun went off in January for the Houston marathon, I was sitting on my bed with a box of Kleenex and feeling miserable. It was the only time I had entered the Houston marathon. I had been entered for a year because the race fills up. I did not start, DNS. 

So, fast forward to 2021, I no longer live in Houston. However, the Houston marathon is canceled and a virtual option is available. I signed up just to get some Houston marathon swag. It means a lot to me to have this swag for my collection of virtual marathon medals.

But running a marathon in January is a tricky thing in Missouri. It is usually too cold to spend 6 hours outside jogging and walking your way through 26 miles. I had assumed that I might have to run the Houston marathon on a treadmill. This year, however, the weather is pretty warm. The problem is snow laying on the ground. The snow on the bike paths means I can\’t use them for running. But in the little complex where I live, the roads have been spectacularly cleared. 

I picked yesterday to run my Houston marathon. It was supposed to get warm. I had devised a 1.2 mile loop around the complex. I could return to my home for pit stops. I had to start the marathon after the sun came up, but early enough that I could finish before it started to cool off. I got started at 8:40. The first miles were a bit slow and tricky because of…black ice. I only fell once.

The day was beautiful. I settled into lap after lap. What happens in my head during 6 hours of boring running? Frequently, my head is trying to figure out how to quit. Falling on the ice was the first excuse. Along with excuses for quitting, there are devious plans to fake results and post them anyway just to get the swag. It is only a virtual race so what does it matter if I lie about the results? Truth is, my brain wants to quit in real races and often suggests that I cut the course. 

I have never cheated in a marathon or anything. While some part of my brain goes on and on with cheating suggestions, some other part of my brain quietly pursues real achievement. I call this quiet part of my brain my conscience. 

Up until 14 or 15 miles, I find jogging quite easy. The black ice has been disappearing. The sun is out and actually doing its job of warming the earth. But after that, my feet begin to hurt and persevering becomes harder. I cut myself a break and start adding short walk breaks. Once past 20 miles, I know I can finish, even if I walk the last 6 miles. 

For most of my life, I\’ve been a runner, sometimes sacrificing hours at work because I need to go running. I spent my career getting up at 3:45 in order to go running before going to work. I often wondered if I was wasting my life. But now, I think not. What I am doing each time I complete a marathon without cheating, especially if I am doing it by myself, is experiencing a higher-order consciousness than ego consciousness. I experience my Conscience. The experience of Conscience is one of the highest things a human can experience, and running marathons gives this to me.


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